God’s Moral Attributes

God’s Righteousness and Justice. III: Practicing Righteousness

“If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him” (1 John 2:29; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Christians should be imitators of our heavenly Father, imitating His righteousness.

The Bible frequently calls Christians “children of God.” He is our Father. We are His sons and daughters. Children resemble their parents. Thus, children of God should be similar to their heavenly Father. One way in which we should do that is by bearing His righteousness.

1 John 2:29 tells us that God is righteous. In its comments about this verse, The Disciple’s Study Bible (Nashville: Cornerstone Bible Publishers, 1988) says, “God is righteous, meaning that He not only opposes what is evil but is the source of what is right.” The Old Testament even uses it as one of the names of God, when Jeremiah 23:6 calls Him “Jehovah-Tsidkenu,” meaning “the Lord our righteousness.” Many Christians like to quote another of John’s descriptions of the Lord, that “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16), but God’s righteousness is just as essential as His love. We cannot ignore it. We cannot think that God’s love is somehow divorced or detached from His holiness and righteousness.

Image from needpix.com, published under a Creative Commons license.

Likewise, we cannot assume that we are true Christians without resembling some of His attributes. We will not be as holy, loving, righteous, or just as He is, and we will always fall short of Jesus’ standard during our earthly lives. We will not be perfect on Earth. However, if we do not bear some of God’s righteousness and justice, we cannot claim to have His Holy Spirit within us. If we are not practicing righteousness—as defined by Scripture, not by the secular media and pop culture—we cannot claim to be children of God and followers of Jesus Christ.

Today is the first Sunday in Advent, the beginning of a season of anticipation and preparation for the celebration of Jesus becoming human; it is also the first day of a new year on the church calendar. The world will wait until January 1 to make its New Year’s resolutions, which most people will give up within three weeks. Last year, on the first Sunday of Advent, I challenged readers to pursue a “One Year, One Thing” challenge, inspired by a quote from Thomas a’ Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ: “If every year we rooted out one vice, we would soon become perfect men.” Take some time over the next few days to look at your life: Is there an area of unrighteousness in your life? Is there an aspect of God’s righteousness that you are lacking? Aim to grow in one attribute, turning from one form of unrighteousness, in the coming year. You can read more about this challenge here.

May the coming year be a time of greater righteousness and justice in your life.

How do you think God wants to reveal more of His righteousness through you? Share your thoughts by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Moral Attributes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God’s Righteousness and Justice. II: Justice and Mercy Together

One mistake a Christian can make is to emphasize one of God’s attributes while ignoring others. God is a Personal Being, and sometimes His actions can seem complicated or paradoxical. As we consider God’s righteousness and justice, we cannot forget His love and mercy. As James 2:13 says, “Mercy triumphs over judgment” (all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible). God’s judgment is present alongside His mercy.

The Israelites learned that lesson after crossing the Red Sea. They rebelled several times after their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. They worshiped a golden calf while Moses was receiving the Ten Commandments. They frequently complained about how God fed them.

On one occasion, they seemed almost ready to enter the Promised Land. Moses sent 12 spies to survey the land. When they returned, 10 gave a bad report, saying the Israelites would be wiped out by the people of Canaan if they tried to enter. As a result, the Israelites threatened to kill Moses and return to Egypt.

God’s glory appeared, and He had another idea: He could slaughter all the Israelites, spare Moses, and start over with a new nation descended from Moses.

“But Moses said to the LORD, ‘Then the Egyptians will hear of it, for by Your strength You brought up this people from their midst, and they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that You, O LORD, are in the midst of this people, for You, O LORD, are seen eye to eye, while Your cloud stands over them; and You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. Now if You slay this people as one man, then the nations who have heard of Your fame will say, “Because the LORD could not bring this people into the land which He promised them by oath, therefore He slaughtered them in the wilderness.” But now, I pray, let the power of the Lord be great, just as You have declared, “The LORD is slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generations.” Pardon, I pray, the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of Your lovingkindness, just as You also have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now’” (Numbers 14:13–19).

Moses meets with God. Sometimes, he had to pray for God to have mercy on the people. Image from the Phillip Medhurst Collection of Bible Illustrations, in the possession of Philip De Vere, published under a Creative Commons license, via Wikimedia Commons

Moses intervened and asked God to preserve the people who had just threatened to kill him. They did not deserve mercy. God had already forgiven them several times. This was not the first time Moses had to stand in the gap for them. It would not be the last time, either. The people of God have always been flawed humans—from the time God first revealed Himself to Abraham, through the Exodus and ministry of Moses, throughout the rest of the Old Testament, into the New Testament, and throughout church history until today. We have always needed God’s forgiveness, and we always will. We do not deserve it, but He forgives us anyway.

God most clearly reveals His glory and power through mercy and forgiveness. Moses reminded God of an earlier occasion when He appeared to him. At that time:

“Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations’” (Exodus 34:6–7).

As God pronounced judgment upon the nation, Moses recalled these words. He did not have to coerce God. He simply recalled how God had revealed Himself. God promised that He would be merciful and forgive. Moses took God at His Word and prayed that He would remain faithful to it. God responded by forgiving the people: not because they deserved it but because forgiveness is one of His specialties.

Yet, God made it clear that His mercy was not an excuse to sin. God forgives, but there can be consequences. Sometimes, the effects of that sin last for generations as he “visits the iniquity…to the third and fourth generations.” A few hundred years after Moses’ time, Israel’s ruler, King David, committed adultery with a married woman named Bathsheba and murdered her husband. God forgave David, but the child died. Despite that, his next child with Bathsheba, Solomon, became Israel’s wisest king and an ancestor of Jesus. Despite David’s sin, he was forgiven and mankind was blessed with salvation. There were painful consequences, but God’s mercy triumphed even amid judgment.

When Moses prayed for the Israelites, God spared them. However, there were consequences. The people thought that even God could not get them safely into the Promised Land. Therefore, God held them to their word. Only two of the adults who left Egypt eventually entered the Promised Land—Caleb and Joshua, the only two spies who believed God could give them victory. God forgave, but there were consequences for the people.

Today, we cannot separate God’s mercy from His righteousness and justice. God still forgives. However, sometimes He will leave us to face the consequences of our sin. God may forgive us, but we suffer just the same. Perhaps we may bring pain and suffering to our families. He may forgive us if we commit sexual sin, but we may have to accept the consequences of unwanted pregnancy, disease, or wounded reputation. God can forgive us for sins committed in anger, but we may have to endure broken relationships. He can forgive us if we steal or otherwise break a law while sinning, but we may have to suffer the legal consequences.

God’s mercy triumphs over judgment, but His great desire is to write His law in our hearts so that we can reveal His righteousness, justice, and goodness through our lives. Let us thank God and trust Him to remain merciful, allowing His love to propel us to be more like Him.

Has God ever shown you His mercy while correcting you with His justice and righteousness? How have you seen God’s mercy in your life? Share your thoughts by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Moral Attributes | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God’s Righteousness and Justice. I: How To Identify Righteousness and Justice

“The Rock! His work is perfect,
For all His ways are just;
A God of faithfulness and without injustice,
Righteous and upright is He” (Deuteronomy 32:4; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise indicated).

Image created using the YouVersion Bible app.

I intended this post to begin a new series on God’s justice. However, as I studied, I realized we might benefit by using two English terms interchangeably: justice and righteousness. They are almost synonyms in the Bible.

Mishpat” is the Hebrew word that is most frequently translated as “justice,” providing the root for the word “just” in the above verse; Scripture often uses it in legal settings or when God executes His judgment on people, sins, or nations. Another word, “tsaddiq,” is translated “righteous” above and is usually translated that way in the New American Standard Bible. It is also translated as “righteous person,” “righteously,” “right,” “one who is in the right,” “just,” “blameless,” and “innocent.”

The equivalent New Testament word is the Greek “dikaios” and various terms related to it. It is translated as “righteous,” “just,” “justice,” “right,” or “innocent.”

Nelson’s Three-in-One Bible Reference Companion defines justice as “administration of what is right.” Righteousness is an attribute of one’s character; justice is that righteousness in action. Since the terms are so closely related in Scripture, throughout this series I will use them interchangeably. While there are slight differences in emphasis, the meanings of the words are similar enough to justify this usage.

Now, let us consider a few difficult questions: What do righteousness and justice look like? How do we know an action, behavior, or decision is righteous or just?

While we often think of justice in legal terms, we cannot always trust man’s laws to be just or righteous. Before 1865, slavery was legal in much of the United States. It was banned after the Civil War, but legalized racial segregation remained on the books in southern states for about 100 years after that. It might have been legal, but it was not righteous or just. The Nazi holocaust that killed six million Jews was legal—the government authorized it—but it was not righteous or just.

People and societies lose their way when they have no objective standard for justice. Humans can agree that we want justice in our culture, but we may disagree about how to bring it about or which activities are righteous or just. In recent years, a branch of America’s Democrat Party (including far-left liberals like New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) has referred to itself as “justice Democrats.” They claim to promote justice with their emphasis on environmentalism, racial equality, women’s rights, etc. However, they often do so at the expense of biblical truth and the traditional Judaeo-Christian values that provide the basis for our nation’s legal system.

I will add that many Republicans err as well. They may support values that are more consistent with Scripture in some regards (e.g., opposition to abortion, support for traditional marriage). However, some of them might ignore Scripture’s teachings about defending the poor and showing no partiality to the rich and powerful. Political party platforms are not a valid objective basis for defining justice.

True justice is an attribute of God. The prophet Jeremiah referred to Him as “Yahweh tsidkenu”—The Lord our righteousness. Any concept of righteousness or justice that ignores or contradicts God’s nature or Word is not true justice. Equitable enforcement of godless legislation is not justice. God’s Word is the foundation of all justice. Psalm 119, the Bible’s epic hymn of praise to God’s law, says:

“Righteous are You, O Lord,
And upright are Your judgments…
Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness,
And Your law is truth” (Psalms 119:137, 142).

Elsewhere, God’s Word says:

“The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.
They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them Your servant is warned;
In keeping them there is great reward” (Psalms 19:7-11).

We should continue to fight for justice. Christians should be on the front lines of the battle against injustice, corruption, and oppression in society. However, we must not follow a political platform or cultural norms. Instead, we must continue to live by and declare God’s Word. When our favorite politician deviates from Scripture, we must remain steadfast in our obedience to the Lord. God has called us to be His ambassadors.

How do you see justice and righteousness? How would you like to see it manifested today? Share your thoughts by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Moral Attributes | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

God’s Holiness. III: Holiness and Renewal of the Mind

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.’ If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:14–19; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Image from pxhere.com. Published under a Creative Commons 1.0 Public Domain license.

Our previous post showed that Christians are already holy because we have been set apart for God. However, sometimes we do not look holy. We may not feel holy. Perhaps we may feel like nothing has changed in our lives. While our status as Christians is holy people, set apart for God’s glory, our entire lifetime is a process of learning how to manifest His holiness in our lives.

Peter told his readers, “Do not be conformed to your former lusts.” Old habits of thought and behavior have a way of creeping in even after we have walked with Jesus for a while. We need to allow the Holy Spirit to renew our minds to conform to God’s will, not to the ways of the world:

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1–2).

This renewal of the mind is a lifelong process. The world continually bombards us with messages that contradict God’s Word and wisdom. Television, radio, music, news media, the Internet, etc., try to tell us what to think and how to feel about everything. Most of what they say gives little concern for what God has to say; some hold God in open contempt.

To counteract the world’s mindset, we must yield to the Holy Spirit as He renews our mind through God’s Word. You can find several articles on this subject here.

The Bible is our primary source for the renewal of the mind. Its words give life, unlike those of an ordinary book. Peter wrote that the Word of God is the imperishable seed through which we are born again (1 Peter 1:23). Jesus said that His disciples are sanctified through His words:

“But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me” (John 17:13–23).

Probably most Christians have a problem accepting these words at face value. “Even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us.” “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them.” I admit it: I do not always feel like I am in Christ to the same extent that He is in the Father. I know my attitude and behavior can sometimes be quite a bit below the level of “godlike.” People do not always see the glory of God in me. Perhaps, no matter how long you have been a Christian, you may say the same thing. But, this is what Jesus says. This is the Word of God. I can choose to believe and accept it or I can deny it. I can seek God’s holiness to be revealed in my life or I can call Him a liar and decide that is impossible. Do we believe that God is truthful? If so, let us seek all that He promises for us!

We need God’s Word to counteract the lies of Satan. The world will continue to bombard us with its propaganda. Also, we have heard numerous messages that diminish our value and potential. We are told to accept sin and spiritual defeat as a normal part of our lives because we are “only human.” To counteract that, we need to spend time reading God’s Word, meditating on it, and studying it, all within a context of prayer to Him. God’s Holy Word, enlightened by the Holy Spirit within us, is vital to produce holiness in our lives.

It can be hard to take God at His Word, especially when He makes such bold statements. Let us not lose heart. Let us hear, read, know, and believe His Word and trust Him to bring it to pass in our lives. If we believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6), let us trust Him that He speaks the truth when He speaks about our lives.

In what ways would you like to see God’s holiness manifested in your life? Feel free to share by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Holiness, God's Moral Attributes, Renewing the Mind Reflections | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God’s Holiness. II: Holy People for a Holy God

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.’ If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:14–19; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Image from pxhere.com. Published under a Creative Commons 1.0 Public Domain license.

The previous post in this series introduced the concept of God’s holiness. It is an important attribute of God. The term refers to something that is different, set apart, or consecrated, as opposed to something common or ordinary. We then saw that God calls His children to share in His holiness and communicate it to those around us.

How do we do this? How can we participate in God’s holiness? What does this look like? The discussion in this post and the two that follows it assumes that you are a Christian, who has received forgiveness of sins and everlasting life through faith in Christ.

First, we must admit that we cannot make ourselves holy. The Disciple’s Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 1988) has this note regarding 1 Peter 1:15–16:

“God alone is holy. Objects or persons can be classed as holy only by participation in His holiness.”

We cannot make ourselves holy. The best we can do is receive and participate in God’s holiness.

To do this, we must recognize that we are already holy through faith in Christ. Holiness is not something we seek or earn as much as it is something we live out and practice. If you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ, you are already holy. He has already purchased you with His blood and made you His own. 1 Peter 1:18 says that He has redeemed us. We belong to Him. He has already set you apart. God has given us His Holy Spirit living within us.

Most of us have moments when we do not feel holy, though. We know we are not acting holy. Sometimes, our behavior borders on diabolical. To change this behavior, we have to remove the obstacles that are hiding God’s holiness in our lives and let it flow out of us.

The exhortations in the next two posts are not a complete list. Numerous authors have written entire books on holiness in the Christian’s life. Three brief blog posts will not be able to cover everything. This is also not a step-by-step guide to holiness. Finally, I must emphasize that this is not a guarantee of instantaneous sanctification. The Christian life is a marathon, not a 100-meter dash; persistence and long-term obedience to God and fellowship with Him are necessary. Spiritual growth always takes time. Every Christian struggles with his or her own obstacles to holiness. Thus, we may each have to take different steps to grow. However, God has the same purpose in mind for each of us: That we may be conformed to the likeness of His Son (Romans 8:29).

In what ways would you like to see God’s holiness manifested in your life? Feel free to share by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Holiness, God's Moral Attributes, God's Nature and Personality | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

%d bloggers like this: